Can I be charged a fee for copyright usage because of image used from Internet affiliate relationship?

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Can I be charged a fee for copyright usage because of image used from Internet affiliate relationship?

My company manages a real estate web site that uses images provided by an affiliate partnership. We received a letter today that one of the images for a property listing is supposedly under copyright license and we are not authorized to use. They are requesting payment of $875 and to have the image removed. We have little to no control over the images that are supplied with each listing and while the image is displayed on our site, it really links out to the affilate site to read the image. What do you suggest we do?

Asked on August 24, 2012 under Business Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If you infringe on a valid copyright, you can be held liable for damages, though the appropriate level or amount of damages would be the reasonable "fair market value" of licensing that image for the use you made. If that image or  a similar one could be licensed for a few tens of dollars, that's more what you should pay, especially since in this case, knowing or deliberate infringement cannot be shown. You can offer to pay a fair amount; if the copyright owner won't take it, you have to decide whether you will pay what he wants, or refuse to pay and take the chance of being sued--since lawsuits can be expensive and unpredictable, you could end up with higher total costs (though if not sued, you'd pay nothing). From what you write, you would also seem to have grounds to seek indeminification or reimbursement from the partner you got the image from.


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